Rethinking the privatization of faith

For those theologically inclined and have been following the (relatively) recent debates over the privatization of faith (in other words, the shrinking space religion is confined to in the secular world) then I would venture to guess that the more socio-economic political arguments for the faith hailing from John Milbank, Stanley Hauerwas, Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, et. al. are highly convincing for you. The flak they all seem to receive however boils down to an accusation that they are nostalgic for a pure Christendom that never existed. I have briefly shared my own thoughts on this matter elsewhere (here) concluding that our private faith is merely, de facto, practical atheism. This is entirely too simple I confess, but I recently ran across a snippet of Graham Ward’s book The Politics of Discipleship (the full post can be viewed here). I will presently reproduce only the final sentence of the post as a stand-in for an opposing argument to some of the ‘new traditionalists’ named above (Ward is specifically referencing Radical Orthodoxy here).

…such a narrative of a theological decline assumes that it was so much easier to be faithful in mediaeval Christendom (at is classical height) than today, and I can’t accept that – what possible theological rationale can there be for God making things harder for us now to accept the gift of Godself?

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One response to “Rethinking the privatization of faith”

  1. Matthew Martin says :

    What possible theological rationale is there for assuming that the privitization of faith is the outworking of God? I am familiar with Bonhoeffer’s arguments about religionless Christianity, though I find them unconvincing. If we want to criticize the “new traditionalists” for a nostalgia for a time that never existed, their opponents in this regard can be criticized for assuming a “progress” via God’s work in history. This would simply seem to be so much more of a continuing craze for the new–a crowning of the “way things are”. For a “new traditionalist”, God did not make it harder to accept the gift of God’s Self. Humanity did.

    Of course, even worse, historically-speaking, is assuming that things have not really changed that much. It is rather amusing that people of any given age tend to take for granted that everyone throughout history always has and always will think like they do and be motivated by the same concerns. For a contemporary example, we must look no further than the assumption that we can buy the Taliban insurgency off by giving them money and socio-political-economic opportunity. We in the market liberal, democratic West cannot even fathom “medieval” motivations.

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